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Tue, June 18

Editorial: State solving problems, or going through motions?

Do not think, do not ask advice, do not do your own research, don't talk to anyone ... do not pass "Go" and, certainly, do not collect $200.

As of this writing on Thursday, the Arizona House Appropriations Committee had approved a package of three bills that would settle a long-running school funding lawsuit.

The school funding, referred to as inflation funding, goes back to 2009 when schools sued the Legislature after lawmakers stopped providing voter-required annual inflation boosts. Officials mainly prevailed but the case has been under appeal. Fairly recently a judge ordered the state to pay up; depending on the plan approved, schools could get about $3.5 billion over 10 years.

Early Thursday, the Senate's appropriations committee also approved the bills, which were to see debate on the House and Senate floor and, ultimately, a vote.

The idea is to fix the problem, and keep the courts at bay.

But that's the rub.

Former Treasurer Dean Martin testified Thursday before one of the committees when, according to the Associated Press, "a winded (Senate President Andy) Biggs ran into the room." Martin had warned lawmakers on the panel that they were trading one lawsuit for two and were being pressured to just approve the measures. Biggs called those comments about pressure "ridiculous" and "scurrilous" and said the panel should discount Martin's entire testimony.

Seems lawmakers in the Senate and House have been told the bills are not open to amendment - just approve them.

I cannot find anywhere that Martin is an attorney, but with his experience he could reasonably predict court challenges. But more troubling is Biggs' behavior.

Folks, we've heard about politics of this sort for years: leadership hammering out the budget behind closed doors, retribution if lawmakers do not toe the party line, and pressure to follow/vote without asking questions. It happens in Washington, D.C., and it is commonplace at the Capitol in Phoenix.

Problem is that boils the governing (call it representation) down to only a few people. Arizonans are not playing Monopoly, but wanting their voices heard. If an action could spur court challenges we must not merely trudge forward.

It can easily be said we have been doing just that, advancing legislation almost as test cases - to see what sticks to the wall and what does not. That certainly was the case with the state's anti-immigration legislation (SB1070). You could argue the same with the bill (SB1062) protecting religious disapproval/business rights.

I want the school funding woes to be fixed, just as much as the next guy. I do not, however, want the people representing the citizens of this state to do so blindly.

- Tim Wiederaenders, city editor

Follow Tim Wiederaenders on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2032, twieds@prescottaz.com or 928-420-6472.

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